2005-2013: The Early High-Definition Era
The Xbox 360 ushered in the seventh generation of video game home consoles, a system capable of high-definition gaming. It was an era in which high-definition graphics began to become the industry standard. While Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 competed for the best graphics of this generation, it was the graphically inferior Nintendo Wii that won this console war. Games that provided fun for the whole family had a broader appeal and outsold games that had cutting-edge graphics. Ironically, in an era of high-definition gaming, the kingpin of this generation was not designed for high-definition gaming. The Nintendo Wii emphasized family-friendly games with motion controls, returning Nintendo to its position at the top of the mountain of the console wars.
2005, November 22: Xbox 360
Original price: $399 (Premium: 20 gig model, wireless controller, component/composite wires), $299 (Core: no hard drive, wired remote, composite wires)
2019 price: $509.53 (Premium), $382.14 (Core)
Sales: 85.5 million
Number of Games: 2,104 (461 original Xbox games)
Best-selling game: Kinect Adventures (24 million – bundled with Kinect), Grand Theft Auto V (15.34 million)
Media: DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, digital downloads
Main controller(s): Microsoft Xbox 360 controller (wired and wireless)
Other peripherals: Xbox 360 Wireless Racing/Speed Wheel, Xbox Live Vision Camera, Xbox 360 Kinect, Xbox 360 universal Media Remote, Xbox 360 Media Remote, Big Button Controller/Scene It Trivia Controller, Xbox 360 Arcade Sticks, Rhythm Game Controllers (musical instruments for Rock Band & Guitar Hero), Xbox 360 Ace Combat 6 Flight Stick
The Xbox 360, released in 2005, was a significant improvement over its predecessor, the original Xbox. It featured a sleek, modern design and a powerful processor that allowed for smoother graphics and faster gameplay. The console introduced the Xbox Live online gaming service, which allowed players to connect with each other and compete in online multiplayer games. The Xbox 360 was also the first console to offer high-definition graphics, making games look crisper and more detailed than ever before.
The console’s controller was also redesigned, with a more ergonomic shape and the addition of trigger buttons, making it more comfortable to use for long periods of time. The Xbox 360 used dual-layer DVDs that held 8.7 gigs of data. It was capable of playing DVDs, and high-definition gaming, and was backward compatible with many games from the original Xbox. The first model of the Xbox 360 had unreliability issues with its hardware. The most common problem was the Red Ring of Death, an indication the console needed to be serviced. This was due to a lack of proper ventilation that led to overheating. Later variations of the Xbox 360 had much more reliable hardware because of better ventilation.
For most of this generation, the Xbox 360 held onto first place for console sales. However, late in the generation, PlayStation surpassed it in sales. Third-party developer support was excellent for these systems, in many ways the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were more of direct competitors with one another, rather than with the Nintendo Wii. This was due to the fact that the Xbox 360 was easier to develop than the PS3. The Xbox 360 had a strong library of games, including popular exclusives like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport. It was a huge success, selling over 85 million units worldwide and solidifying Microsoft’s position in the console gaming market.
- 2006, November 17: PlayStation 3
Original price: $599 (60 GB), $499 (20 GB)
2019 price: $748.27 (60 GB), $623.35
Sales: 86.90 million
Number of Games: 1,443 (7,978 PS1 and 3,909 PS2 games)
Best-selling game: Grand Theft Auto V (17.27 million)
Media: Blu-ray disk, DVD-Rom, CD-ROM, digital downloads
Main controller(s): Sixaxis wireless controller, DualShock 3 controller
Other peripherals: Wireless keypad, PlayStation Eye, PlayStation Move, Buzz, Logitech Driving Force GT, Logitech Wireless Precision Controller, Blu-ray disk remotes, Rhythm game controllers (musical instruments)
The PlayStation 3 was released in 2006 and marked Sony’s entry into the seventh generation of home video game consoles. It was powered by the Cell microprocessor, which was jointly developed by Sony, IBM, and Toshiba. Despite a slow start, the PS3 ultimately sold over 87 million units worldwide, solidifying Sony’s place as a major player in the video game industry.
The PS3 was the first console capable of playing Blu-ray media, allowing it to play high-definition movies and games. Games were stored on Blu-ray disks holding 24 gigs worth of information, much larger than any other video game medium beforehand. The console was also capable of internet connectivity, allowing users to access the PlayStation Network, an online gaming platform. The PS3 became a popular way to stream media such as Netflix, or local media to an HDTV. The PS3 could be connected to a CRT, but an HDTV produced the best results. Some early versions of the PS3 were backward compatible with both the PS1 and PS2, but the feature was dropped because of the expense needed to maintain this hardware. The PS3 had two main versions: the original “fat” model and the later “slim” model, which was released in 2009. The slim model was lighter and more compact than its predecessor and featured some hardware improvements, such as a larger hard drive and a more efficient cooling system.
The PlayStation 3 was in many ways a step back for Sony’s console. After winning the console war the previous two generations, the PlayStation 3 trailed both of its major competitors for most of this generation; eventually edging out the Xbox 360 for second place. Early issues for the PS3 were a high price point and the infamous “cell processor” which made it difficult for developers to develop. Cross-platform games usually ran smoother on the Xbox 360, as opposed to the PS3. However, the PS3 had a strong library of exclusive games, such as the Uncharted series, The Last of Us, and God of War III.
- 2006, November 19: Nintendo Wii
Original price: $249.99
2019 price: $312.29
Sales: 101.64 million
Number of Games: 1242 (plus virtual console games)
Best-selling game: Wii Sports (82.83 million, pack-in except in Japan)
Media: Wii Optical Disc (proprietary DVD-DL), digital downloads
Main controller(s): Wii Remote Controller and Nunchuk
Other peripherals: Sensor Bar, Console stand and plate, Wii Wheel, Wii Zapper, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro, GameCube controller, Wii Dance Pad, Wii Fit
The Nintendo Wii would go on to sell the most consoles of its generation, the first time Nintendo would win the console war since the Super Nintendo. Although the Wii’s graphics were inferior to the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, its motion-based controllers gave it a family-friendly aura the other two consoles didn’t have. Top that off with the fun of Nintendo games, and the Wii was a winning formula. Although some third-party games appeared on the Wii, the strength of its lineup lay in Nintendo exclusives.
The Nintendo Wii was a revolutionary console that changed the way people played video games. With its innovative Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers, players could physically interact with games in a way that was never seen before. The console also introduced the concept of “casual gaming” with simple, pick-up-and-play games that were accessible to players of all ages and skill levels.
Despite its technical limitations, the Wii was a commercial success, thanks in large part to its focus on family-friendly entertainment. The console also introduced new franchises such as “Wii Sports” and “Wii Fit,” which became household names. While the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were focused on providing a high-end gaming experience, the Wii proved that there was a large audience for more accessible, family-oriented games.
- 2004, August 4: V.Smile Series (VTech)
- 2005, October: Game Wave (ZAPiT Games)
- 2006, September (EU): V.Flash (VTech)
- 2006, October 23: HyperScan (Mattel)
- 2007 (CN): Vii (JungleTac)
- 2007: ClickStart (LeapFrog)
- 2008, November 20: EVO Smart Console (Envisions)
- 2009, May 25 (BRA): Zeebo (Zeebo)
- 2004, November 21 (NA): Nintendo DS
Original price: $149.99
2019 price: $197.67
Sales: 154.90 million
Number of Games: 1839 (1,510 backward compatible Game Boy Advance games)
Best-selling game: New Super Mario Bros. (38.8 million – all versions), Nintendogs (23.96 million)
Media: Nintendo DS Game Card, Game Boy Advance Cartridge (DS, DS Lite only), digital downloads
The Nintendo DS continued Nintendo’s grip on handheld superiority. The Nintendo DS, released in 2004, was a revolutionary handheld console that took the gaming world by storm. Its innovative dual-screen design allowed for unique gameplay experiences that couldn’t be replicated on other handhelds at the time. The bottom screen was a touch screen, allowing players to interact with games in new ways, while the top screen displayed the game’s visuals.
Perhaps the biggest innovation of this system is its clamshell design, probably the best design to date for portable consoles. This design protects the screen, allowing gamers to close their consoles when not in use; making a carrying case a luxury rather than a necessity.
The DS was also backward compatible with Game Boy Advance games, making it a versatile device for gamers on the go. The system’s library featured a mix of classic Nintendo franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, as well as innovative new titles like Brain Age and Nintendogs that brought in new audiences. The Nintendo DS went on to become one of the best-selling video game consoles of all time, with over 154 million units sold worldwide.
- 2004, December 12 (JP): PlayStation Portable (PSP)
2005, March 24 (NA): PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Original price: $249
2019 price: $324.24
Sales: 80-82 million
Number of Games: 1,368 (606 UMD), (7,978 PS1 games)
Best-selling game: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (7.6 million)
Media: UMD (Universal Media Disks), digital downloads
The PlayStation Portable or PSP as it was more commonly known was Sony’s entry into the portable gaming market. While it can be seen as a failed coup to Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market, it was a very respectable alternative for gamers.
The PSP had impressive graphics for a handheld device, almost on par with the PlayStation 2. Its screen was a generous 4.3 inches, and it had built-in Wi-Fi for online gaming, web browsing, and multiplayer matches. Sony also released a camera and GPS add-ons for the PSP, which expanded its functionality. The PSP played UMD disks and digital downloads. Owners of digital downloads of PS1 games had a cross-buy and cross-play option. These digital versions of the games could be played on both the PSP and the PS3. Although these were not current-generation games, they gave gamers the option to play the same game at home or on the road, transferring the game save back and forth.
The PSP had a large selection of games, including some popular franchises like Grand Theft Auto, God of War, and Metal Gear Solid. However, like many of its competitors, the PSP’s success was hindered by the rise of mobile gaming and the subsequent decline of the dedicated handheld market. Nonetheless, the PSP is still remembered fondly by many gamers for its impressive technical capabilities and library of great games.
Second tier portable consoles:
- 2005, April: Gizmondo (Tiger Telematics)
- 2005: digiBlast (Grey Innovation)
- 2006, August: Pelican VG Pocket (Pelican Accessories)
- 2008, April: N-Gage 2.0 Platform (Nokia)
- 2008: Leapster2 (LeapFrog Enterprises)
- 2009, May 12: GP2X Wiz (GamePark Holdings)
- 2009, October: Mi2 or PDC Touch (Planet Interactive)
- 2010, May: Pandora (OpenPandora GmbH)
- 2010, August 16: CAANOO (GamePark Holdings)
- 2010: Fusion: 30-In-1 Portable Arcade (Jungle Soft)
- 2010: Leapster Explorer (LeapFrog Enterprises)